NFL football player James Jones returned on Friday to the high school he attended — Gunderson High School in San Jose — to receive the honor of having the football field named after him.
At one time homeless, the San Jose alumni went on to become a Super Bowl champion, but despite his fame Jones said the naming of the field is meaningful for him.
“You don’t grow up thinking of having a stadium named after you,” Jones said. “It’s something that’s never going to be forgotten. My kids, my grandkids, even their kids, they can always bring them back here and say ‘this is my grandfather’s stadium.’”
Childhood friends and classmates of Jones packed the stands at Gunderson High on Friday, looking on as he was honored. Despite his success, they said he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
“I know this means the world to him because we played on this field even before high school,” said classmate Martell Hefner.
Another classmate, Jennifer Kohler, said Jones keeps in touch with his childhood friends. “The same friends he had in high school are his best friends now,” she said.
Jones hopes that the field named for him will help inspire young students to chase after their own dreams.
“I always tell them, ‘you can be homeless, you can lose your mom or your dad, but no matter what your circumstances are, hard work always wins,’” Jones said.
After first playing football at Gunderson, Jones went on to play nine seasons in the NFL. Most of that time was as a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers. In 2011, Jones helped them win a Super Bowl.